Albo crashes international student “ponzi scheme”


It is becoming clear that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese zigged when he should have zagged on international education and immigration.

Last month, Albanese visited India where he signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) to make it easier for Indians to work and study in Australia.

This Mechanism for Mutual Recognition of Qualifications requires Australia to deem Indian vocational and university graduates to be “holding the comparable AQF qualification for the purposes of admission to higher education”.

It also requires Australia to deem Indian vocational and university graduates “to be holding comparable Australian qualifications for the purposes of general employment, where such qualifications are required”.


So basically, Indian graduates of higher education (i.e. universities and vocational colleges) will now be allowed to work in Australia on the same terms as local graduates. Studying in Australia will also be made easier.

This is highly disconcerting given India’s tertiary education system is far inferior to Australia’s, with their most prestigious university ranked at a lowly 415th in the world (and the worst at just 1994th).

As reported last week in Bloomberg, India is awash with scam universities and private colleges churning out fake qualifications who will now be permitted to work in Australia under this new MOU.


According to Bloomberg, there are “thousands of small private colleges that don’t have regular classes, employ teachers with little training, use outdated curriculums, and offer no practical experience or job placements”.

“Massive billboards with private colleges promising young people degrees and jobs are ubiquitous”, the report read.

“Calling such so-called degrees as being worthless would be by far an understatement”, said Anil Sadgopal, a former university dean and government advisor.


Immediately after Anthony Albanese signed this MOU with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, multiple media reports emerged warning of endemic visa scams and fraud involving Indian students arriving in Australia for work and residency.

The situation has gotten so bad that at least five Australian universities have imposed bans or limitations on students from specific Indian states amid a surge in non-genuine students.

Even the International Education Association of Australia’s CEO Phil Honeywood, the key lobbyist for the industry, has labelled the system a “ponzi scheme” and a “race to the bottom”.


Honeywood is now calling for greater regulation of education agents and students to ensure only genuine applicants arrive.

He last week told an a parliamentary inquiry into the international student sector that onshore and overseas agents were being paid commissions of up to 50% to funnel south Asian students into courses with poor credentials that didn’t suit their talents or skills.

Honeywood said sometimes money was being “handed in an envelope under the table” to agents who directed young people into courses.


“These agents need to be regulated”, he told Guardian Australia. “It’s not hard to do but they’ve been getting away with it for two decades”.

Honeywood’s observations mirror those of Labor MP Julian Hill, who last year also labelled Australia’s international education system a “ponzi scheme” that entices non-genuine students to Australia with generous work rights and permanent residency, which have been ruthlessly exploited by dodgy education agents.

“Uncapped work rights is being misused by agents in many parts of the world who are flogging our precious student visa as some kind of cheap, low rent work visa. No one should permit that to continue”, Hill warned.


“We know that the incentive of a permanent visa to Australia is like a golden ticket from Willy Wonka’s chocolate bar”.

“It’s too powerful an incentive that would drive and pervert behaviour by providers, and some students”, Hill said.

So, amid widespread reports of visa scams and rorting, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has irresponsibly signed a MOU with India that will guarantee a tsunami of migrants with low quality or fake qualifications.


Young Australians, in particular, will be shut out of rental accommodation and jobs by Indians that are prepared to work for much lower wages, while capital city infrastructure will strain under the weight of thousands more people.

The question must be asked: Why hasn’t Australia’s union movement pushed back against Anthony Albanese’s mad Indian MOU, which is a treasonous betrayal of Australian workers?

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.